Baseline hematologic and plasma biochemical analytes provide insight into wildlife health. In recent years, blood analytes have been used to infer foraging strategies and nutritional status of female sea turtles of different species during nesting season in an effort to determine if turtles at this life stage are capital breeders that forage little to none during nesting season. These changes in foraging during nesting have not been documented in loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). The objective of this study was to evaluate correlations between hematologic, plasma chemistry, immune function, and antioxidative analytes of female loggerhead turtles during nesting season to determine evidence of reduced foraging. We found that chloride tended to increase, while total protein, various plasma protein fractions (pre-albumin, alpha-1-globulins, beta-globulins, total globulins), total white blood cells, superoxide dismutase, reactive oxygen species, iron, and triglycerides decreased over the course of nesting season. These results suggest that loggerhead turtles rely on fat stores accumulated on foraging grounds to fuel their energetic costs during nesting. Our results also indicate alterations in hemodynamics, metabolism, and antioxidative capacity due to reduced foraging and high energy efforts of nesting, which lend further insight into the physiologic dynamics and catabolic state of sea turtles during nesting season.
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We thank Kayla Goforth, Savannah Poor, Tiffany Sieler, and Luke Sundquist for assistance with field work and sample collection. We also thank Mote Marine Laboratory’s (MML) Marine Immunology and Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Programs for logistical support and use of equipment, in addition to University of Miami’s Avian and Wildlife Laboratory for sample analyses.
Our study was carried out in accordance with a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission permit #15-205 and MML IACUC approval #15-01-JP2. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This work was supported by a MML Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
Conflict of interest
JRP and NIS declare no conflicts of interest. All authors approved the final version of this manuscript.
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Responsible Editor: U. Siebert.
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Perrault, J.R., Stacy, N.I. Note on the unique physiologic state of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) during nesting season as evidenced by a suite of health variables. Mar Biol 165, 71 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-018-3331-1